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IDF Soldier Killed in Bethlehem As ‘war of Stones’ Turns Deadlier

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An Israeli soldier was killed Sunday in Bethlehem, after being shot in the head at close range by a pistol-wielding assailant.

Moshe Katz, 28, detailed to guard the local office of the Interior Ministry, died at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. A curfew was imposed on the Bethlehem area and several arrests were made.

The shooting capped a weekend of violence in which three Palestinians were killed and at least 18 wounded by Israel Defense Force gunfire in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The news reached the Cabinet at the end of its weekly meeting. Fears were expressed that the Palestinians, now in the 103rd day of their uprising in the administered territories, have begun to resort to firearms, as well as rocks and Molotov cocktails against the IDF.

The attack on the soldier was seen as a possible breach of orders from the Palestine Liberation Organization not to use firearms against the IDF. The orders were issued apparently to limit Palestinian casualties and to retain the image of unarmed civilians battling heavily armed troops.

But several incidents in recent days indicate the “war of stones” might be turning more deadly.

ANOTHER ISRAELI SHOT

An Israeli civilian, Adi Tzabari, 44, was shot and wounded by two gunmen in the Gaza Strip on Thursday while drilling for water. He was taken to Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, where his wounds were pronounced serious, but not fatal.

Shots also have been fired lately at Israeli vehicles in the territories, and gasoline bomb attacks have become more frequent.

Relative quiet was reported in the Gaza Strip on Sunday after two days of violence. Rioting broke out in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza and the Shati refugee camp after prayer services Friday, the Moslem Sabbath. The IDF moved in, killing one Palestinian and wounding 18.

Another Palestinian was shot to death Friday at the Ein Bet El-Ma refugee camp, near Nablus. Military sources said he attacked a soldier with an unidentified object.

A Palestinian youth was shot to death Saturday after he threw a gasoline bomb at soldiers in a village in northern Samaria.

The fatalities brought to 100 the number of Palestinians killed since unrest began in the territories Dec. 9.

IDF MAY FIRE AT BOMB-THROWERS

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin informed the Cabinet on Sunday that the IDF has been authorized to open fire on the Palestinians who throw Molotov cocktails or other gasoline bombs.

But the soldiers must be sure they are aiming at the attackers. They are not permitted to fire into crowds from which a gasoline bomb was thrown if they cannot identify who threw it, Rabin said.

Until now, gasoline bombs have been classified as “cold” weapons not to be countered by gunfire.

The Defense Ministry also announced over the weekend that it has outlawed Shabiba, the Palestinian youth branch of Al Fatah, the centrist faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization controlled by Yasir Arafat. Security officials believe Shabiba has been at the forefront of rioting in the territories.

Israeli security forces rounded up hundreds of Palestinian activists Friday in an attempt to remove agitators and inciters.

Israelis are concerned over possible widespread violence in Israel and the territories on March 30, the 12th anniversary of Land Day. On that day in 1976, Israeli Arabs protested the expropriations of Arab land in Galilee by the IDF.

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